What Rights Do Immigrants Have at Work During an Immigration Raid?

Despite the fear of a potential immigration raid, being able to continue to go to work and make money is essential for immigrants to be able to manage their personal finances.

During a time of increased immigration enforcement actions in the U.S., it is more important than ever for immigrants to know their rights, including at the workplace.

By knowing what requirements immigration officials has to follow during a workplace raid, you can help protect yourself, your co-workers, and your employees.

Who are Immigration Officials?

The government agency that enforces the immigration laws against businesses is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Raids are conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is part of ICE. ICE HIS agents are the immigration officials who would come to your small business if there were an immigration raid there.

Why Does ICE Conduct a Work Raid?

Generally, ICE raids of workplaces are for the purpose of making sure employers are following immigration laws. If ICE believes that a small business may be employing immigrants who do not have work authorization, it may conduct a raid of the business.

An ICE workplace raid can happen without warning. ICE may have already conducted an investigation and identified that undocumented immigrants may be working at the business.

Unfortunately, ICE can sometimes attempt to arrest and deport undocumented workers who they encounter during a raid of a business even if that is not the purpose of the raid.

What are ICE Officials Required to Do to Conduct a Raid?

In order to carry out a raid, ICE HSI must have a warrant that describes specifically what documents they are searching for and where they are looking. Not only is ICE generally not permitted to enter a private workplace unless it has a search or arrest warrant, but that warrant also must be signed by a judge.

What Can Immigrants Do to Try To Protect Themselves During an Immigration Raid?

Generally, ICE is not permitted to enter a private workplace unless it has a search or arrest warrant signed by a judge or permission from the employer.

First, it is important to check if ICE has a proper warrant. If ICE does have a search warrant, that warrant must be signed by a judge. The warrant typically also states specific locations ICE may search for certain items. It is important to not let ICE search any areas that are not listed in the warrant.

Undocumented immigrants can protect themselves and their colleagues by refusing to let ICE into the workplace without a warrant. If ICE tries to enter the workplace without a warrant anyway, individuals can state that they do not consent to the search.

When ICE does have a search warrant, the search warrant is likely limited to immigration employment laws such as to allow for search of employment records. An immigrant can ask to see a copy of the warrant and say no to questions about their personal immigration status. Often the warrant does not permit ICE to arrest individuals.

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the federal appellate court that oversees California and other states on the west coast, held that immigration officials violated the law when they arrested an immigrant worker despite the search warrant being limited to employment records. The federal judge stated that the law “does not justify using the execution of a search warrant for documents to ‘target’ for detention, interrogation, and arrest busloads of people who could not otherwise be detained.” 

What To Do If ICE Arrests an Immigrant

If ICE does arrest one of more of your colleagues or employees during an immigration raid, one of the best things you can do is try to find an immigration lawyer to help defend them from deportation.

Helping the employee find an immigration lawyer can make a significant difference, as immigrants who have an immigration lawyer are about five times more likely to win their case, giving them a higher chance to stay in the U.S. with their family.

It is best to make sure that the immigration attorney is actually a licensed lawyer in good standing with a State Bar Association and that they maintain their license with continuing legal education. One of the best resources to check this information is through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) lawyer search. If the immigration attorney is a member of AILA, that is also a great way to check and make sure the person is actually a lawyer and not a notario fraud.

ICE may detain the person and place them in an immigration detention center to be detained while they face deportation proceedings. In this scenario, there are several concrete steps you can take that can help the person.

In addition to trying to find an immigration lawyer, you can reach out to the person’s family and friends to let them know what happened. This will allow them to start pulling together resources to help the person, try to find them an immigration lawyer, and perhaps collect money to pay for an immigration bond to seek their release from detention if they are eligible.

You can work with the family and friends of an employee or colleague to try to help find out where the person is located. If the person who is detained, you can search for what detention center they are at on the ICE Detainee Locator website.

If the person has had an immigration case or interacted with immigration officials previously, they will likely have an A#, which, along with their country of origin, can be used on the site to find their location. If the person does not have an A# or you cannot find out what it is, you can search for the person by their name, date of birth, and country of origin.

A version of this article originally appeared on Camino Financial.


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